Singing Along With Billy Joel

Last night my daughter and I had a blast at Billy Joel’s concert at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The huge venue was packed, thousands of mostly middle-aged fans (and their kids, who grew up with this music) singing and swaying along with the gifted storyteller. He opened with Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway), which I find funny, this being 2014 and the song is from 1981. We may have been the only two, at least in our section, who cheered the line, “They said that Queens could stay.”

Pressure was next, with its raw truth.  The lights and graphics added to the nervous energy of the song. (Off topic word of advice: if you listen to Pressure and James back-to-back you will need a drink or baked goods afterwards. But he didn’t play James so we were okay.) It was a weird going from that to the sedate This Is The Time.

Billy Joel sounded great, looked like he was having fun, and his piano playing was, as always, extraordinary, but he had to keep spraying his throat. It must be as tight and dry as the rest of ours this winter. But he delivered, including few playful Beatles snippets like When I’m 64. (And he noted, he is now 64. Ouch!)

Allentown always gets me because it addresses the demise of factory work, through the lens of one industrial American city. He’s from Long Island; I don’t know how he captured the despair and made great music from it. It’s as timely now as it was in the Eighties when it was released.

We’re waiting here in Allentown for the Pennsylvania we never found. For the promises our teachers gave, if we worked hard, if we behaved.

The crowd cheered the Montauk reference in Downeaster Alexa, which surprised me that the East End was so well represented. It’s about a three-hour train ride from Montauk to the Garden, probably more in yesterday’s snow. But like Allentown, Downeaster Alexa honors the working person and his unique environment. (in this case, the commercial fisherman from a long line of commercial fishermen.)

There ain’t much future for a man who works the sea. There ain’t no Island left for Islanders like me.

It’s a little awkward singing “Captain Jack” with your kid, no matter how old said offspring is. I tried, really, to be quiet and pretend not to join in but groupthink won. At least it’s too late to call me a bad mother.

Whenever I hear “River Of Dreams” I want to sing in the chorus. He surrounds himself with such a beautiful gospelly sound and I wish I could be a part of that. The daughter and I playfully sang the background vocals…to each other.

The music was fun and familiar. The crowd was happy, the visuals were just right for each song. I’m surprised he didn’t include “Goodnight Saigon” and “The Entertainer.” I really wanted to hear “Angry Young Man” too. He did include Everybody Loves You Now, Zanzibar, A Room Of Our Own, Moving Out, New York State of Mind, Scenes From An Italian Restaurant, Piano Man, Still Rock and Roll and many of the other songs that made us love him  His concerts at (the now defunct) Shea Stadium in 2008 were longer and more raucous, perhaps because they were outdoors, in the summertime, to close an iconic ballpark. I highly recommend the DVD of those shows. The MSG show was wonderful and I’m so glad I got to be there.

4 thoughts on “Singing Along With Billy Joel

  1. I remember sharing a Billy Joel concert with my teenagers in DC in the late 90’s … fantastic experience, and your words took me straight back there. And to hear him now would be even more wonderful! Thanks for the memories!


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